Volume 2, Number 1 -- January, 1997

Training Day One

The bus shakes
from the nerves of the newbees
who rub the same hand which made the oath.

We arrive at night.
The bus halts
and by command
the doors part;
it's too late for a turnabout.

His first step from the curb
weighs our vehicle down.

My throat tightens as if it knows
of the strain of cadence
and of sounding off,
but this is my first day
and the training has yet to begin,
my voice is post-pubescent, pre-marine.

Enter Smokey Bear,
whose brim rides securely over
the eyebrows of a man
who lives to greet this bus.

"Listen up, maggots!
When I give the command
you are to remove your stinking
civilian bodies from this here bus
as fast as humanly possible."

I do it
As fast as I am able to,
glad that I am
neither first nor last,
then wondering why
I signed that contract.

Maggot? Wait a second...

But the seconds are moving
at the quick-time pace
of this new way of life
with sounds of muffled protest
encircling my mind.

I stand now
full of patriotism and propaganda,
molars clenched in tension
with my thumb and forefinger
running along the seems of my trousers,
feet at a 45 degree angle.

I wait for instruction.

D.I.s are approaching from all sides
as their voices crescendo.
I hear only my own self-doubt.

The bus is now empty
the stammering resides only in my brain
and in the heel/toe demeanor
of the warfare instructors
who start off by directing our attention
to the illuminated placard
which reads
God, Country, Corps.
by Jason Stephens (jason@hooked.net)

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